(Prayer offered on the Public Address system for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Ash Wednesday, 10 February 2016)
Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of a loving God …
Have you ever seen a tree explode? Yeah, that’s right. Have you ever seen a tree explode? I’m told by a reliable source that eucalyptus trees – you know, the kind that koalas love to munch on – explode during forest fires. Apparently, it’s a survival method. A way to continue their species after the fire has wiped out every living thing in sight. While the fire’s raging through the dense Australian forests, dormant sprouts in the root system of the eucalyptus tree are woken up by the fire’s heat. Once the fire’s over, the dormant sprouts use the ash left by the fire, which is rich in nutrients, to grow into a beautiful, life-giving tree.
For Christians around the world, today marks the beginning of the annual, seven-week-long “forest fire” we call Lent. Between now and Holy Thursday, we’re being called to “set on fire,” so to speak, those things that we do, think, and say that are harmful to our relationships with ourselves, others, and God. Just like with the eucalyptus tree, it’s in the nutrient-rich ash created by “burning”, or getting rid of, those negative behaviors and bad habits that we can flourish, that we can become our best self.
Now, wait a second, Mr. da Silva, are you saying that I should go home and set things on fire? No. Please do not set anything or anyone on fire. That’s not what I’m talking about. What I’m saying is that none of us is perfect and that we all have areas of our lives that need improvement.
So, I’m challenging you, before you go to sleep tonight, to do two things: (1) think of one negative behavior or bad habit that you need to “burn” or get rid of and (2) think of one positive behavior or good habit that you can develop over the next several weeks so that you can really flourish as the compassionate human being that we all know you are. Make sure to come up with a concrete plan to implement those changes.
For example, this Lent …
• Every time you feel the urge to talk about someone behind their back, seek the person out and give them a compliment or do something nice for them– especially if you don’t like them.
• If you feel that you are more plugged into Twitter or Instagram or Snapchat or Facebook than into the people around you, make a resolution to only spend thirty or twenty or ten or zero minutes on social media each day.
• Instead of buying that espresso and red velvet cupcake from La Salle Bakery, donate the money to the Rice Bowl or to any other of the thousands of worthy causes out there.
• If, like me, you find yourself running around from one commitment to another and don’t make time to speak to and listen to God in prayer, make a commitment, like I did, that every day you’ll spend 15 minutes praying however, whenever, or wherever you pray best – silent meditation or singing or listening to inspiring music or even the Rosary or the Liturgy of the Hours.
Do what works best for you. My only advice is instead of just “giving something up” for the sake of giving something up this Lent, really think about how the thing that you give up and the thing that you take on will help you to grow into your best self and draw you closer to others and to God. After all, that’s the whole point.
Now, let us pray using words from the prophet Joel:
Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Tear your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the LORD, your God. (Joel 2:12-13)
St. John Baptist de La Salle … pray for us.
Live Jesus in our Hearts … Forever.
Charles da Silva–Religion Teacher